Five-time Maritime late model/pro stock touring series champion Greg Sewart will be inducted in the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame (HOF) Saturday night in Moncton (NB), a landmark event in Sewart’s life for obvious reasons, but also because it will officially kick-off the restoration of a racecar that formed the foundation of Sewart’s drive into the pages of Maritime motorsports history books.
"I'm honoured to be included in this year's Hall of Fame class of inductees," said Sewart. "To have that combined with starting the restoration for my first car makes the event so much more special.”
Sewart, from Williamswood, competed full-time from 1976 until 1980, and then from 1982 until 2000, and then on a limited basis until 2002 when he retired from driving a racecar. During that time he won countless races en route to nine championships; won five times in three of the Maritimes most prestigious special event stock car races; won the inaugural Moosehead Grand Prix on the streets of Halifax in 1991, and then again in 1992 and 1994; was named the MASCAR Driver of the Year twice – as voted by the fans; and, in 1994, became the highest finishing resident Atlantic Canadian in the acclaimed Oxford 250 in Maine – scoring second-place among some of the best short track racers in North America after racing from a back-of-the-pack starting spot.
It is the very car he drove to his first win and first three titles that is being restored over the coming months both to commemorate Sewart’s impressive racing career and to help build awareness for the Maritime’s rich racing history. The car, a 1967 Chevelle, was driven by 19-year-old Sewart in 1976 - his rookie year as a sportsman driver at Atlantic Speedway near Lucasville - where he won his first ever stock car race, the division rookie of the year title and championship. The next year, in 1977, he drove the same car to the division championship again. Not too long after the car was sold and Sewart lost track of it – until September of this year.
It was then he was contacted by friend and former crew member, Pat Lawrence, to say he knew where the old car was and had plans to go look at it. Sewart and his brother Jim, who had driven the car before Greg and also won a championship in it, joined Lawrence a few days later in a field near the Halifax airport. There “she” sat; rusty, broken, and in some ways forlorn - but instantly stirring memories of the group on hand.
“I remember the excitement of watching Greg run this car from the tower at Atlantic Speedway in the 70s as my Dad, ‘Jer Bear’, announced,” said Pat Lawrence, Project Co-ordinator. “The restoration is a community project, to ultimately bridge the gap between racing generations. While we’ve seen replica cars assembled over the past few years, what makes this project unique is that we found the original car.”
Sewart had already been notified of his forthcoming induction to the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and so a plan was launched by Lawrence to recover the car and then restore it to its former glory. It didn’t take long to convince the Sewart’s, former crew members, and others interested in Maritime racing history that the project was exciting and worthy of completion.
“It is hard to believe things have come full circle,” said Sewart, “I started my career with the old Chevelle that we're now rebuilding...again. Many thanks to all those involved in my induction and in the restoration."
A few days later the car was donated to the project by its current owner, Larry Brown, and on its way to Stacey Clements race shop in Hubley – ironically only a short distance from where it was built by another Maritime racing legend, Clyde Hemeon. Clements, who has childhood memories of the car, will lead the “hands-on” restoration work under the watchful eye of Hemeon and the Sewart’s.
The project is still in its early stages and the car will be unveiled in its “before” state this weekend in Moncton. The restoration will be documented, and published on CheckersToWreckers.com. When it’s done, the car will be race-ready for the 1978 season at Atlantic Speedway. The project is scheduled for completion by next spring and the group plans to offer the car to regional race tracks to showcase next summer, thus accomplishing their goal of helping to create awareness for Maritime motorsports heritage and at the same time the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame (Petitcodiac, NB) – where the car will eventually end up on display.
Volunteer restoration worker positions and ground-level corporate sponsorship opportunities are available; those interested should contact Project Coordinator Pat Lawrence at 902.485.2538.
GREG SEWART’S CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
· 1976 – Sportsman Champion & Rookie of the Year / Atlantic Speedway
· 1977 – Sportsman Champion / Atlantic Speedway
· 1980 – Modified Champion / Atlantic Speedway
· 1982 – Late Model Champion / Onslow Speedway (was near Truro)
· 1983 – International 200 Champion / River Glade Speed (near Moncton, NB)
· 1983, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1995 - MASCAR Champion
· 1984 - International 200 Champion / River Glade Speed (near Moncton, NB)
· 1985, 1992 – MASCAR Driver of the Year
· 1986, 1993 – Riverside 250 Champion / Riverside Int’l Speedway (near James River)
· 1989 – Halifax 300 Champion / Scotia Speedworld (near Halifax)
· 1991, 1992, 1994 – Moosehead Grand Prix MASCAR Champion (Halifax)
· 1994 – Second-Place Oxford 250 / Oxford Plains Speedway (Oxford, Maine)
LINEAGE OF THE 1967 CHEVELLE
· Street car, 1967 to 1970
· Transformed to a racecar, built by Clyde Hemeon in early 1970’s
· First raced by Dartmouth’s Bob Yuille at Atlantic Speedway
· Second racer was Charlie Kane, until 1974, when sold to Jim Sewart
· Jim Sewart won the 1974 Atlantic Speedway Sportsman championship with the car
· Sold to Greg Sewart in 1976; entered the sportsman division at Atlantic Speedway as a rookie racer, winning his first race - en route capturing the sportsman rookie and championship titles
· Greg Sewart won the 1977 sportsman title at Atlantic Speedway with the car
· Sold in the late 70’s to Morris Clarke, Brookfield who ran the car a few times at Onslow Speedway before retiring from racing in 1980
· Sat in Clarke’s barn until 1985 when it was moved to a nearby hayfield
· Found by Larry Brown in 2004, and with the help of Brian Northrup, was recovered from the hayfield
· Sat outside near the Halifax airport until September 22, 2010 – when reclaimed by Sewart and friends